Posted: August 25th, 2022

Basic Rhetorical Analysis of a technical document



Subject:          Rhetorical Analysis of Judy Leung’s “How to Cook Kung Pao Chicken” online recipe instructions

Date:               September 5, 2021


This memo aims to provide a detailed analysis of how the recipe “How to Cook Kung Pao Chicken” uses technical communication for the Woks of Life webpage. I base this analysis on Mike Markel and Stuart A. Selber’s six characteristics of a successful technical communication document: addresses particular readers, helps readers solve problems, reflects an organization’s goals and culture, is produced collaboratively, uses design to increase readability, and consists of words or images or both.


Judy Leung’s “How to Cook Kung Pao Chicken” recipe proficiently adheres to Mike Markel and Stuart A. Selber’s six characteristics of a successful technical communication document. The recipe effectively addresses particular readers through its thorough command of the English language in describing the cooking process and its masterful use of the conversational writing style. It is reflected through the author’s inclusion of personal experiences and simple words that further encourage the reader to know more about the recipe. It also helps readers solve problems by making the recipe easy to understand through hyperlinking valuable references. The recipe also reflects the organization’s goals and culture as its content is related to the overall theme of “The Woks of Life” online lifestyle blog, which is about Chinese cuisine and culture. Collaboration is also evident in the recipe as the author cross-references the works of her co-members to provide further information for the readers’ convenience. Such cross-references include articles written by her husband and daughter on cooking methods and alternative styles of the Kung Pao Chicken. In addition, the recipe utilizes proper design to increase readability by using a plain, white background, a unified font color, clean typography, proper spacing, and vivid complementary images. On the other hand, the insertion of several advertisements throughout the page decreases readability as they cause distractions for the reader.


Addresses Particular Readers

This recipe effectively addresses English-speaking readers interested in cooking Chinese dishes such as Kung Pao Chicken. The author uses simple words, short paragraphs, and a conversational tone to make the page easy to read and understand. For example, the author begins the introduction by including a short anecdote about her experience in Beijing, where Kung Pao Chicken was popular among restaurant-goers (par. 1). By mentioning this anecdote, the author entices the reader to know more about the dish and eases them into the actual recipe through a conversational style of writing. In addition, the recipe also includes summaries both in the top and bottom parts of the page to help the reader quickly find the overview of the recipe. At the top, there is a short video showing the cooking process of the dish. Meanwhile, the bottom includes a detailed checklist of ingredients and a numbered step-by-step process.

Helps Readers Solve Problems

The recipe helps readers solve the problem of thinking of meal ideas for various occasions by providing how Kung Pao Chicken is cooked. It includes external links, such as those on the ingredients list and other alternative versions of the dish. These links help the reader understand unfamiliar words or processes that they encounter in the recipe. For example, in the first step of the cooking process, the word “wok” (par. 9) is hyperlinked to a separate webpage that provides information on what a wok is and where the reader can find one. Moreover, all the ingredients are also hyperlinked to other articles that provide further information on their appearance, flavor, and where they can be bought. These links make the recipe more convenient for the reader as they will no longer need to do separate searches for further information. The recipe is complete, comprehensive, and supported with useful external references.

Reflects an Organization’s Goals and Culture

The website where the recipe is found is called “The Woks of Life.” It is a lifestyle blog that is run by a family of four. In the upper right corner of the page, there is an “about us” link that directs the reader to a new page where the Leung family introduces themselves and describes the purpose of their website. They mention that “Our recipes represent our own culinary genealogy, from the simple to complex, the traditional to the reinvented” (par. 11). It is considerably reflected in the content of their blog, which includes a variety of Chinese recipes, ingredient information, cooking methods, and travelogues that the authors personally wrote and published.

Is Produced Collaboratively

While the recipe is solely written by Judy Leung, its content and the external links she used throughout the page reflect collaboration with her other co-members in The Woks of Life. In the introduction, Judy includes links to alternative styles of Kung Pao Chicken, such as the Kung Pao Tofu (par. 4). This link directs the reader to a separate page that is written by her daughter, Sarah. Judy also references a post about “velveting” chicken for stir-fry recipes written by her husband, Bill. These cross-references throughout the website reflect that not only is the Kung Pao Chicken recipe page made collaboratively, but the whole website as well.

Uses Design to Increase Readability

The recipe is easily readable as it uses a simple white background that contrasts nicely with simple, black fonts. The headings and subheadings, such as “What is Kung Pao Chicken?” and “Kung Pao Chicken Recipe: Instructions,” are easily identifiable because they are in all capital letters, in bold typeface, in a bigger size, and sans serif font. These designs help the reader find the recipe sections as they catch the readers’ attention quickly. Meanwhile, the small paragraphs of text are written in serif fonts in readable size and spacing. Since the page is in English, the words are placed at the left side of the page, where English-speaking readers would most likely start reading. However, several advertisements throughout the page distract the reader from seeing the contents quickly and clearly.

Consists of Words or Images or Both

This recipe includes both words and images that complement each other in describing the dish’s cooking process. In the introduction section, an image of the finished Kung Pao Chicken is included, and a short video summarizes the dish’s cooking process. As the reader goes through the recipe, images of ingredients in between the worded step-by-step process are also included. These images serve as valuable references for how the dish should look as they follow the word instructions.

Technical communication is meant to be used and not just read. Good technical communication communicates information to an audience who will act on that information in a variety of ways: in making hiring decisions, in following technical procedures, in developing research plans, and more. In this assignment, you will evaluate the usability of a piece of technical communication. That is, you will analyze whether the document effectively communicates the necessary information to its audience and where it fails to do so. In this way, the assignment will introduce you to basic elements of technical communication.

Your analysis should demonstrate that you understand the basic principles of technical communication discussed in the first chapter of your textbook. The process you will follow in this assignment is relatively straightforward: using the analysis points provided below and in Chapter 1 of Technical Communication, you will study a document and then determine how well it relies (or doesn’t) on effective technical communication practices. You will then present your analysis in a memo to your instructor.

There are three steps to this assignment:

Step 1:
Look at attached technical document you will be creating the rhetorical analysis on. The document is the 2020-2021 FASFA Application

Step 2:
Evaluate your chosen document for usability. This will involve reading the document carefully, paying attention to the features that enable use. (In other words, how did the author structure the document so that readers could access and use the information effectively and efficiently?)  Follow the specific points of analysis below.

Step 3:
Write a memo to your instructor that organizes your rhetorical analysis in both a logical and convincing way. (Your instructor is your audience.) Follow the memo format described in Chapter 14 of Technical Communication.  Here are additional guidelines:

Be concrete in your analysis. That is, use examples from the document as you make your key points.
Be sure to analyze and not just describe the document. This will require you to evaluate—and pass judgment on—both content and design.
Be sure your analysis is well organized. Use headings  and focused paragraphs to scaffold your analysis.
Your analysis should be 2 single-spaced pages (approximately 1000 words). Therefore, you must be as concise as possible. However, don’t mistake brevity for superficiality.  Be sure to produce a high-quality analysis that shows you can look at a technical document with a critical eye.

Analysis Points
In Chapter 1 of Technical Communication, you will find the following set of characteristics for technical communication:

Addresses particular readers
Helps readers solve problems
Reflects an organization’s goals and culture
Is produced collaboratively
Uses design to increase readability
Consists of words or images or both
Use these characteristics to organize your analysis. Be sure that your analysis addresses each of these six areas appropriately.

Evaluation Criteria
Your project will be evaluated based on the following criteria:

Completeness. The analysis appropriately addresses all of characteristics of effective technical communication. The analysis demonstrates that you have learned about the basic elements of technical communication.

Organization. The analysis is well organized. It has a clear structure supported by headings.

Support. The analysis is concrete in that it uses examples from the document to support major points.

Interpretation. The analysis interprets, analyzes, passes judgment—it does not just describe.

Style. The analysis is well written. Topic sentences are clear.

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